Optimize Your Home Page

In this post, I want to have a short talk about optimizing your home page. Notice though – I’m not defining what exactly I mean by optimizing. The trick is that it’s going to be different for everyone, depending on your business and your goals.

Lots of clients come to me asking for a certain look, usually either just like every other home page out there, or so wildly different that it doesn’t make sense. But what they haven’t considered is that while a look & feel is important, it’s only one feature of a home page.

Right now, I’m working on some marketing for an elite strength training gym. The owners of this gym have a bazillion certifications, have both trained winners, and are top athletes themselves. They know their stuff and can teach with efficiency, accuracy, and compassion. These folks are the real deal.

And yet when I first look at their home page, I don’t get any of that. In addition, it’s hard to find the information I want, such as, what are the hours and can I just drop by?

No visitors to a website look at it in the way owners do. Visitors are going to give it like 5 seconds and if it doesn’t resonate and isn’t clear and focused, they’ll move on. Note: I made that 5 seconds up because I’ve seen so many studies and claims – everywhere from 1.8 seconds to 8 seconds, and I picked 5 as a generous average. Whatever it really is, it’s stupidly small.

Not everyone is going to land on your website via the home page, but many will, and many will navigate to it as a launching point for exploring the rest of your site. Brains love to be lazy – they’re already busy keeping you breathing and all. Make it easy for visitors’ brains to understand what to do on your home page.

Would You Like to Optimize That?

I’m not going to tell you which parts of your site to optimize – that’s up to you.

Quick – what’s the thing your want a visitor to do? Pick ONE action.

What do you want the visitor to think of you/your business? Pick ONE word.

You can have secondary actions and secondary impression words in mind, but first work with the top action and top impression.

Every Website Should…

Immediately tell a visitor 3 things:

  • Who they are
  • What they do
  • Who they do it for

Put it in big words, and use images to support this. I’m still unclear what this is for the gym I’m working with, because I think they may not be 100% clear yet. But, I think one main goal is to train athletes for better sports performance.

I suggest an image of smiling, celebrating team, fresh from competition, holding up medals or a trophy. If it’s a real one from a real team, coached by this gym, that’s 1000000000000000x better than an stock image. But a stock image is better than an alternate image, like of one person training. Athletes go to a gym to get strong so they can win, not so they can do a bunch of reps.

Right now, the gym tells who they are, then they list six very different service offerings in small letters. That’s an accurate list, and they’re all good things, but it doesn’t really say anything about what the visitor is going to get out of going to the gym. And finally, they don’t say who they do these services for.

What if they said something like, “We build winning athletes through strength and conditioning.” in big letters? While that leaves some room for improvement (I’m no copywriter, and I know it!), it is clear what the gym does (strength and conditioning work) and for whom (people who want to be winning athletes).

If you’re an athlete who wants to win, this will appeal to you within the first 5 seconds. Interestingly, it will also appeal to people who want to be athletes, or wish they could be like athletes. It will also speak to the parents of younger athletes and coaches of athletes.

Optimize for Action

So, in this gym example, they want people to walk into the gym. I don’t have numbers, but I know that if the owners can get someone in the door, they can close a ridiculously high percentage. We’re talking nearly 100%.

The home page needs to tell visitors what to do. So let’s assume an athlete who wants to win has come to the site, has seen the imagery and the big text telling her who the gym is, what they do, and who they serve, and thinks, “This could be for me!” The gym needs to have a call to action, easily visible that says, “Drop by today! Open 8 – 8 daily.” Or, “Come in for a free consultation! Just drop in, or make appointment by filling out form below.” They need to have hours & location right up top and easy to find.

This gym does have a call to action for a free consultation, but I have to scroll down past two images and the menu to see it. Plus, it’s not clear that it’s an invitation, it feels more like a barrier/filter like a pre-qualification form, which is not part of their pre-qualfication plan.

Optimize for Perception

Here’s how I think this gym wants to be perceived:

  • highly effective
  • highly qualified
  • serious about well-being
  • serious about strength
  • professional

They are NOT a Crossfit and are NOT a Planet Fitness.

To make sure that their home page reflects this, it needs to be simple, clear, efficient, and helpful.

Imagery that would support this perception include shots of the owners and trainers working with athletes in a professional manner. Icons and color should be used to draw the visitor into the site and call attention to key points.

Conventional thought would say the menu should have no more than 7 items, and if that could be reduced to 4 or 5, I would recommend it. When visitors have too many choices, they will walk away rather than choosing.

Some people build out a huge landing-page type home page, but for this gym, I don’t think that’s the best way to go. I would have call outs for workout/member information, services, and a link to any special promoted item or service. Further down, I would include a video of the gym with folks working out. I would then have links to 3 key blog articles. I would repeat the call to action, maybe in a slightly different way. And finally, in the footer, I would have all contact information, location, hours, and links to policies and terms.

I would make subtle usage of technologies like the video, animations, and parallax scrolling (if at all). I would use a unified, and limited color palette to group and separate different options.

Next Steps

While these actions won’t apply directly to your Home Page, I’m hoping the process and the way of thinking about this gym’s home page will help you optimize your home page for the visitors you want and the actions you want them to take.

Quick! What do you do?You have 43 minutes until carpool. You have 17 items on your to-do list.

You're a business-owning mom, so you use this guide to prioritize your tasks in 2 minutes, and have 41 minutes left to knock out a task.